Camera 3 Cinema Sat, Aug 17, 2013 4:15 PM
Film Info
Director:Duc Nguyen
Vietnamese with English subtitles


Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Duc Nguyen’s STATELESS tells the story of Vietnamese War refugees who never made it to America, settled illegally in the Philippines, and are preparing to interview with U.S. State Department officials when the immigration department decides to open new cases in 2005. Like a spelling bee movie on steroids, the tension rachets as the viewer gets to know a selection of Boat People and how they have eked out a living in the fringes of Manila for more than 15 years. With no rights, many of them sell gray market goods door to door, and comprise an underground culture of displaced Vietnamese. The access and honesty given by the interviewees is amazing and so is the footage used by director, producer, and editor Nguyen. Interviews with the stateless people take place in hotel rooms, minivans, and restaurants, and one segment in a government office is even shot via hidden camera. So while there are many talking heads, things never get repetitive. The tone is unflinchingly matter-of-fact and somewhat neutral, with director Nguyen allowing the families and activists that represent them to do the talking (outside of some explanatory verbiage at the beginning and end). Nonetheless, it’s impossible not to become sympathetic to displaced families’ plight. Although establishing shots and background images include fast-moving rowboats, colorful jeepneys, busy street markets, and old photos paint a full and energetic picture of life in Manila, one can’t help but hope that the interviewees will make their way America. Who will make it? What will happen to those who don’t? The subjects’ fates were determined in 2005, and the time spent completing the movie (first as a short and now full-length) has allowed Nguyen to follow up with subjects. When one of them actually becomes a U.S. citizen, he celebrates his new nationality but doesn’t forget that America also jerked him around when he was a refugee. As complex as it is compelling, STATELESS not only provides ample drama but forces viewers to reexamine their citizenship to both their country and the human race. Synopsis written by: Martin Wong, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

In attendance: Duc Nguyen, director and Mai-Phuong Nguyen, Associate Producer


Co-presented by Madison Nguyen, Vice Mayor, City of San Jose, Asian Americans for Community Involvement, Asian Law Alliance, Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network, and OneVietnam